Bridges and Crowns, Partial Dentures and Implants… What’s the difference?

This post was written by our Community Relations Coordinator Katherine Yates, Ft Wayne, IN.

      We’ve all lost our share of baby teeth. We’ve even waited excitedly for the tooth fairy to leave a nice reward for our treasure. However, while adult teeth are considered permanent, life happens and for some reason or another you may end up losing a tooth, or teeth. 
      The good news is that there are several ways your dentist can help. If your smile is important to you, you’ve probably already started looking into the options available, including bridges and crowns, partial dentures and implants. In this article, we explain more about each option and discuss the benefits of each.

      Let’s start with fixed bridges. In civil engineering, a bridge is a structure that spans a gap, like a river or canyon, and connects two unconnected objects. In dentistry, a fixed bridge works in the same way. A replacement tooth is placed into the gap left by a lost tooth and is connected to the natural teeth on either side by preparing the teeth through a process of removing the enamel layer and replacing it with a cap, called a crown.  
      A fixed dental bridge can be the best option if those natural teeth have large fillings and will need crowns in the future anyway. Also, bridges are functional and they usually require less time to complete from start to finish. While bridges are usually the less costly option up front, it’s important to consider that bridges may need to be replaced in the future.

partial denture

partial denture

      A removable partial denture is another option. Replacement teeth are connected to a gum-colored plastic base that can easily be taken out of the mouth for cleaning and at night before bed. Partial dentures also usually have a clasp that attaches to your natural teeth to help keep it in place when speaking and eating. Removable partial dentures can be an affordable solution, but over time and as your mouth changes, they may not fit as well. Also they can break, crack, chip, become loose or lost altogether, requiring more frequent repairs and replacement.

      Implants are a third option. To replace a missing tooth, your dentist may recommend a dental implant, which involves the dentist surgically placing a titanium screw into the supporting bone and allowing the gum and bone to grow around it. Later, a false tooth is attached to the screw and a crown is placed over the false tooth to give it the look and feel of a natural tooth. 
      Dental implants require more time for a final result, but they don’t affect neighboring teeth and rarely need to be replaced, making them a more cost-effective long term solution over bridges. Most importantly, implants do not decay and make flossing and cleaning easier.

      Taking care of your smile is a top priority and whichever treatment option you and your dentist decide on, a commitment to good oral hygiene will be critical to the success of your smile! It’s important to remove food particles and bacteria from your mouth by brushing your teeth, gums, and tongue with a fluoride, ADA approved, toothpaste at least twice a day for two minutes. Also remember to clean between your teeth daily with floss and visit your dentist for bi-annual check ups!

Sources:
JADA
NYT
Colgate
ADA